Acompany which aims to help farmers manage market volatility by protecting them against volatile prices has launched its risk management platform in the UK.
The first service of its kind outside the USA, Stable offers simple, affordable premiums for farmers and food businesses across all sectors to protect them from falling prices or rising costs – something which could be a major threat to UK agriculture in the face of a no-deal Brexit.
Developed by Somerset farmer’s son Richard Counsell, the idea for the business came while Richard was completing a Nuffield Farming Scholarship to findways family farms like his own could build more financial certainty into their enterprises.
Using knowledge he gained from working in software development in Chicago, he began to explore ways to solve what is a significantproblem to farmers around the world.
The inspiration for the platform came from agriculturalwriter AG Street’s famous quote “Up corn, down horn,” with Richard realising if he could build an insurance platform that acted like a mixed farmer, the risk could be spread across lots of commodities. This meant the premium payable by farmers would be affordable, without needing public subsidy.
Stable offersindex insurance to farmers and food companies across 15 countriesand hundreds of diverse farm commodities from coffee to cow’s milk.
In the UK, farmers can already insure the price ofmilk, oilseed rape, milling wheat, feed wheat and feed barley, as well as lamb, pork, diesel and AN fertiliser. The minimum size of policy is just 10t of crops, 1000kg of livestock or 10,000 litres of milk.
The ability to insure against increases in pig, poultry and dairy feed is set to be available in weeks, as the team works towards the eventual goal of enabling farmers to protect their gross margin, i.e. wheat less fertilizer, or milk less feed.
“Price volatility is a major risk to producers, but until now financial tools to deal with price risk have been designed for financiers, not farmers,” Richard says.
“I wanted to start again with a blank sheet of paper, and over the past three years we have worked with three universities and over 300 farmersto create a solution which is not only affordable and low-risk, but also as simple as insuring your car.”
The UK platform utilises indexes from DEFRA and the AHDB to calculate the premiums and claims payable. Businesses can get a free quote in two minutes by answering just three questions: How much to protect, for how long and from what price?
Because the system uses an index price for any payouts, claims are paid automatically, keeping costs low and eliminating paperwork for farmers.
Stableis sold through partners that farmers already know and work with, such as insurers, cooperatives, industry suppliers and membership organisations.The company is registered with the FCA andis a Lloyd’s of London cover holder, which means all thepolicies are underwritten by global underwriters at Lloyd’s.
“As an industry, volatile prices and costs are one of our biggest risks. Meeting thousands of farmers during my Nuffield scholarship helped me understand the need to build a simple solution that was available to farmers of every size and every sector,” Richard adds.
“With so much uncertainty on the horizon thanks to Brexit, we wanted to ensure British farmers have the financial confidence to invest in our future and take advantage of new opportunities.
“As price takers, we need to grab the bull by the horns and tacklevolatility head on, which is exactly what Stable can help farmers do.”
How it works
Real-life case studies aren’t available yet, but here’s an example to show how the platform can work:
In September 2017 an arable farm looked at the option of locking into a futures price for winter wheat of £146.90/t for September 2018 collection.
Rather than doing this, it insured the grain for a month (September 2018) with Stable, setting a floor price of £146.90/t in the policy.
This meant at harvest 2018, the farmer was able to take advantage of an improved wheat price, selling 250t of wheat for £181.70/t.
The insurance cost £9.76/t, but gave the farmer flexibility to take advantage of a £35/t uplift in the grain price without the risk of losing out if forced to sell at less than £146.90/t.
Further sector examples are available at www.stableprice.com